We come to the end of our readings this week in a strange place. The Gospel lesson puts us there. Unlike the other readings, the parable from Matthew offers no deliverance, no repentance, no resolution. We find no positive outcome. There is no Moses to intercede, no psalmist to call for confession, no Paul to commend reconciliation. The person in Jesus’ parable is thrown out of the party—“into the farthest darkness” (ceb).
What are we to make of this? Is this where we are to end up this week? Apparently so, at least from the ordering of the lectionary texts. But why? Keeping in mind that we are in confusing territory in our Gospel lesson, I am nevertheless willing to surmise that Jesus tells the story—at least in part—to remind us that there are times when the only one who can bring us to our senses is ourselves. As the people of God, there are times when we get it wrong, and unless we recognize our error and do something about it, things will not end well. The religious leaders are unwilling to admit they might be wrong, and they never get out of that trap. Perhaps Jesus is telling us that the prerequisite for a changed heart is an open one.
I think this is what Paul means when he writes, “Carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12, ceb). As Oswald Chambers put it, “You have to work out with concentration and care what God works in.”* The man lacked this concentration and care. Rather than gloss over it, Jesus leaves us to see that such presumption is not a good place to be.
*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 6. Chambers’s book is available in multiple editions.
God, the sobering end to this week’s readings and to today’s Gospel lesson leaves me to take seriously the fact that even as your beloved child, I can still get it wrong. Give me grace to do something about it when I am. Open my heart to the humility necessary for change. Amen.
The texts this week remind us of how quickly we can turn away from God. Even while Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments—the first of which is not to worship any other gods—the people fashion an idol and begin to worship it. The psalmist refers to this story as evidence of how often the Israelites have gone astray, and yet God repeatedly has restored them. The parable in Matthew speaks of many who are invited to a banquet, yet they reject the invitation of the king. It is often read as a warning about turning our backs on God’s gracious invitation. Paul encourages the Philippians to seek God with confidence in difficult situations and to focus their thoughts in ways that lead them closer to God.
Read Exodus 32:1-14. When have you or your faith community gotten it wrong? When have you interceded with God on others’ behalf?
Read Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23. How has forgetting that you can be wrong hurt you or your faith community? How has admitting that you were wrong strengthened you or your faith community?
Read Philippians 4:1-9. What issue or conflict has divided your faith community? How might Paul’s urging to “be of the same mind in the Lord” help you work toward peace?
Read Matthew 22:1-14. What work might you need to do to open your heart so you can resolve a conflict?
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